"Grace" is a word Christians use a lot that is not always well explained or understood. I would suggest that if you want to understand "grace," you need to understand the word "but." "But" means 'instead of,' 'rather than,' 'contrary to what you would expect.' How does it help us understand "grace"? Consider God’s Word from Ephesians chapter 2. "As for you, you were dead in your disobedience and sins…gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts." (v1-3) This is the ugly truth of who we are apart from God. We know how prone we are to sin and how often we repeat the same sins. Behind it all is a sinful heart that is profoundly self-centered and self-justifying. Martin Luther observed, 'Our sinful human heart is so deeply curved in on itself that it wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks to use all things, even God, for its own sake.' We must admit that God is right in saying that we are by nature "objects of wrath" (v3), deserving of His anger and punishment.
Then comes that little word "but" – little, yet pivotal and powerful. "BUT because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sins – it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4,5) So INSTEAD OF receiving God’s wrath for our sins, RATHER THAN being punished, CONTRARY TO our expectation of going to hell, God showed us a saving love that only God could show. This is GRACE, that God loved us, not because of something good in us, but because of something good in Him. Note the contrast between sin and grace: The essence of sin is the self-centeredness of us substituting ourselves for God, but the essence of grace is God substituting Himself for us EVEN WHEN we were dead in sin. Do you see why the Bible speaks of grace as "indescribable," "immeasurable," and "unsearchable"? I pray you have a better understanding of and joy in what it means to say that WE ARE SAVED BY GRACE.
Come visit us at CHRIST OUR REDEEMER for more of this message of God's grace!
Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Daniel is the Staff Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, El Paso TX.